NBC Eagerly Touts Kennedy for Congress: 'A New Generation Has Stepped Forward'

On Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie promoted "a congressional battle in Massachusetts featuring a very familiar name" and wondered, "Could another Kennedy be headed to Congress?" In the report that followed, Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell lamented the end of 65 years of Kennedys in Congress, then proclaimed: "But now a new generation has stepped forward."

In reference to Joseph Kennedy III running for Congress in the Bay State, O'Donnell announced: "In Massachusetts politics, he's no ordinary Joe....Going door to door in the rain Sunday, he bears both a family resemblance and a weighty family legacy." She noted him being "the first of his generation to enter the family trade" and touted his resume as "a Harvard law grad, former assistant D.A., and Peace Corps volunteer."

O'Donnell's report did feature some criticism from Kennedy's Republican opponent, former Marine Sean Bielat, who "argued Kennedy isn't ready and is coasting on the family coattails." A sound bite was included of Bielat taking on Kennedy at a debate on Sunday: "I don't think in any other state, in any other district in the country, people would consider you qualified for this office."

However, O'Donnell quickly moved back to the family legacy story angle:

Joe, who introduced a tribute to Ted Kennedy at the Democratic convention...says he knows that his famous name comes with benefits....Spanning six decades of fabled, and at times, flawed history. JFK went to Congress in 1947, before the Camelot days of the White House. Bobby and Ted served in the Senate. Their sons, Joe and Patrick, in the House. And now it's Joe's son who is on the ballot. And getting a boost from his grandmother, Ethel.

Wrapping up the segment, the first the Today show has done on a House race this election cycle, O'Donnell declared:

...that Kennedy family name has helped Joe raise a lot of money, more than two and a half million dollars, quite a bit more than his opponent. And, of course, that will be a factor in this race. Not much polling in this, Savannah, but there are many people here who think the Kennedy name will really carry him.


Here is a full transcript of the October 1 report:

7:15AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: This morning on Today on the Trail, a congressional battle in Massachusetts featuring a very familiar name. Could another Kennedy be headed to Congress? NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell is in Newton, Massachusetts this morning. Kelly, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Today on the Trail; Familiar Name Running for Congress in Massachusetts]

KELLY O'DONNELL: And good morning, Savannah. Well, for the last 65 years, nearly all of that time, a member of the Kennedy family has served in national office. That ended with the passing of Ted Kennedy and his son Patrick choosing to leave Congress. But now a new generation has stepped forward. This is the campaign headquarters for another Kennedy running for Congress. In Massachusetts politics, he's no ordinary Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, my God, it's Joe Kennedy on my front doorstep. Hi!

JOE KENNEDY III: How you doing?

O'DONNELL: Going door to door in the rain Sunday, he bears both a family resemblance and a weighty family legacy.

WOMAN: Where do you sit on the-

KENNEDY: So my grandfather was Robert Kennedy.

O'DONNELL: He is Joseph P. Kennedy III, and the first of his generation to enter the family trade. The grandson of Robert and Ethel Kennedy turns 32 this week.

KENNEDY: This is me and I'm the one running this race and hopefully over the course of the campaign, you build up the – you have the opportunity to really ask voters for their trust and earn their respect and hopefully their support and eventually their vote.

O'DONNELL: Kennedy is a Harvard law grad, former assistant D.A., and Peace Corps volunteer. And now a candidate for an open seat representing suburban Boston in Congress. The Republican challenger, 37-year-old Sean Bielat, is an ivy-league-educated Marine.

SEAN BIELAT: I have almost a decade in business, helping to grow companies.

O'DONNELL: In a debate televised Sunday, Bielat argued Kennedy isn't ready and is coasting on the family coattails.

BIELAT: I don't think in any other state, in any other district in the country, people would consider you qualified for this office.

KENNEDY: I think I've got a sizeable record of public service.

O'DONNELL: Joe, who introduced a tribute to Ted Kennedy at the Democratic convention...

KENNEDY: For my Uncle Teddy, politics was always about people.

O'DONNELL: ...says he knows that his famous name comes with benefits.

KENNEDY: It's certainly an advantage, Kelly, and it's something that I'm very proud of my family's history of public service.

O'DONNELL: Spanning six decades of fabled, and at times, flawed history. JFK went to Congress in 1947, before the Camelot days of the White House. Bobby and Ted served in the Senate. Their sons, Joe and Patrick, in the House. And now it's Joe's son who is on the ballot. And getting a boost from his grandmother, Ethel.

KENNEDY: She's been out on a number of campaign stops for me, which is always amazing for me. Because not only – she's probably the best retail politician I've ever met. She's a pro.

O'DONNELL: And Ethel Kennedy, now 84 years old, and that Kennedy family name has helped Joe raise a lot of money, more than two and a half million dollars, quite a bit more than his opponent. And, of course, that will be a factor in this race. Not much polling in this, Savannah, but there are many people here who think the Kennedy name will really carry him. Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Kelly O'Donnell in Newton, Mass. this morning. Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC